Approximately 10 months after NASA sent a Juno Mission to Jupiter, they are starting to receive the data. This information is making scientists question their knowledge of the big planet. One of the first findings that were sent to Earth actually showed that there are many aspects of Jupiter that we had no idea about. This list includes Jupiter’s magnetic fields, core shape, ammonia gas distribution etc.
For a bit of a background story – Juno Mission arrived at Jupiter back in 2016 in July. Once there, it began a long orbit around the planet and zipped back for a close up (perijove) at the end of August. These short close up’s are what is helping scientists gather as much info as they can. The mission has since settled into a pattern of those close encounters which are happening every 53,5 days. The next flyby will happen on July 11, 2017.
One of the reasons why Juno was a beacon of hope for Jupiter scientists is because it has the ability to see through the cloud formations in order to investigate the gases below the clouds. Ammonia is one of those cloud forming substances and it is what helps Jupiter to form those recognizable features. The scientists are surprised that the gas concentration has been much lower than they expected.
What is even more surprising is the fact that the ammonia is the most concentrated right around the equatorial belt. It is rising from the depths of the planet to the top clouds and is propelled by a powerful upwelling force.
The first observations from Juno have been eye opening for the scientific community as it is pretty clear that the structures we are now seeing on the surface are just a small portion of what is lying beneath. Jupiter’s bands are going as deep as 350 km which is much deeper than what was originally thought. Not only that but the structure of those bands are not as expected – they vary with depth and they do indicate a very complex circular pattern.
It is fair to say that scientists have never been able to see this deep into the planet before so it is very exciting to be in this field of science at this exact moment in history.